True Independence

Today, as we celebrate our independence from the oppressive rule of the English Empire, I’m reflecting on the ways we have re-created “oppressive rule” for ourselves and our collective lives.

As many of us know by now, the fundamental source of this is our own psychological fear. When merged with others who are also operating from this software of sorts, we create unwise policy that impacts and threatens the lives, rights, freedoms, and liberties of millions.

It’s a curious thing we do as human beings– this re-creation of sorts. Like a car with a single headlight, we follow our one-sided vision into darkness….and then defend our darkness (our fear) as if it were the only truth– but it is not. We have another headlight, my friends! (and a little light inside, too!)

To be free from darkness and from our own psychological enslavement, we must turn on our other headlight. If you’re so inclined, from this day forward, vow to grace everything you see with your wholeness and the vision of your internal light.

To see clearly is true freedom. To understand the source of all insidious domination, individually and collectively, is true independence.

Photo by Brady Knoll on Pexels.com

Freedom from fear

Isn’t this the greatest freedom? The one that most policy, law, corporate marketing, and personal strategy aim to relieve for each of us; “to be free from the threat of “x” (fill in the blank).

As I work through my own layers of fear and see the conditions they created, it is abundantly clear that operating from fear is not only unwise, but unproductive. That being said, how could any of us actually ever be “free from fear” when the world appears to be fueled by it– literally.

Becoming psychologically and emotionally free, is inner-work each of us must undertake. And it is doable indeed. There are thousands of books (old and new), and teachers (old and new) that can guide you back to the temple of your own understanding. There is no hack, short-cut, or magic pill for this. Fundamentally, while teachers and books can and do help, you are your own best teacher and guide for this transformational journey.

Remember this: fear is a construct (a thought/an idea) and also a vibration which generates emotional states and a whole chain of chemical, electrical, and biological reactions in our bodies. To be truly free, we must each dissolve all the ways we are not. Many people are addicted to these chemicals and to the rush of energy they provide. But just like any addiction, the energy rush is only temporary.

Fear is not something that randomly ‘happens to you’– but something you choose to live and experience. Fear occurs in the absence of knowing any other conceivable way– and therein lies the doorway. Each and every time we step away from our own knowing– from our own inner temple of truth, we will experience fear. Accordingly, living from the integrity of our center, from our soul-knowing, not only dissolves fear, but provides all the necessary energy and creative power to fuel your days.

How will you spend your time?

I read a neat quote on Twitter the other day: “Knowledge isn’t free, you have to pay attention.”

Knowledge and information are abundant and everywhere! Yes, in books (one of my favorite places to look!), but also in your backyard, in the sky, at work, even on your Facebook or Twitter feed.

When I went to the hospital to deliver my second daughter Camille, there was a painted mural on the wall with the following words:

“Everyone and everything around you is your teacher.”

For some reason, that quote hit me right in the heart and from that day on, I began to notice everyone and everything this way…..the way I used to during my childhood when I lived in Puerto Rico and spent my days on the beach, gazing at the tides, playing with anything and everything that came my way.

In many respects, planet Earth is like a school; a living classroom, if you will. If you’re aware enough to know that ‘you are here’, and that you are here for some reason, you’re more likely to “pay attention” to what comes your way.

Just like ‘regular school’, however, there are those who do not enjoy this school. They are angry. They may be afraid, and so, they attack what they view as threats: they undermine teachers; they shame fellow students; and they ridicule what they don’t understand. They would rather blow up the damn school!

In fact, they don’t see it as a school at all, but as a place to conquer and overpower– which means that whoever is in their way must be ‘set-straight’, shamed, or destroyed.

This is one key observation that Gary Zukav and many others see as a difference between the human beings who are ‘multi-sensory’, and those who are not (yet). To note, most human beings have five ‘factory installed’ physical senses (sight, touch, sound, smell, taste). But there are millions of individuals who perceive beyond these five.

These are not things that can be proven or explained with mere words– they are known, by the individual, because they are directly accessed. And, this access is open and available to anyone who is willing to do the inner-work to locate this inner-access for themselves.

Millions of human beings are evolving on Earth right now. Our own planet is evolving too. To be mindful that change is hard, painful, and messy, is essential right now.

When people become frightened they either retreat or become angry and may lash out in the ‘playground’ of life, just like the bully at school. All human beings experience fear by the way — that is ‘factory installed’, too. However, we don’t have to act from that emotion.

Given this, the question for each of us, because all human beings are undergoing this journey/transformation/transition, is this: knowing this, how will YOU spend your time?

Arguing with bullies? Shaming ‘teachers’? Kicking the school secretary in the shin?

OR

Following your curiosity? Learning from everyone and everything? Thanking everything on your path?

On planet Earth, YOU are in a body, in time. YOU are what time is doing with itself, right now. How do you wish to spend your time?

Focusing your mind on this simple question will direct, uncover, and yield a wealth of information — the same knowledge that so many sages, philosophers, poets, and teachers throughout human history have already pointed us towards– all we have to do is pay attention.

Bring your soul to work day

Back in my corporate days, we had a day each year when we would “bring our daughter” to work. In recent years this was extended to bring “our daughters and sons to work day.” As the essay title implies, I offer that the time has come to do something of substance– something that actually matters.

For many years, I struggled to put words together to describe the sad and incomprehensible things I witnessed during those years. Despite the economic and emotional scraping and bruising I sustained, and that is an inevitable part of being in environments that are not aligned with our highest-selves, I also see that I was meant to be there and to witness what I witnessed first-hand. Because that is the only way to truly know– first-hand. Not from a book, or hearsay, or speculation. But to have lived and suffered it all the way to your bones.

While on the one-hand, my career in the financial services sector was productive and generally stellar, on the other, it became increasingly clear that the higher I went, the more terrible I felt about myself and my work. Today, I sense that part of the reason was this: rising up the corporate ladder required me to progressively leave my soul behind.

You either “get with this program”, or you don’t. For those of us who are sensitive enough to have walked away from those settings, we did so because we sensed that if we didn’t, it would have literally eaten us alive from the inside-out. Like a cancer. It will kill you. It doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care about anyone or anything but itself.

While it is only one of the unique aspects of that which makes you, “you”, your soul is your highest intelligence. If you’re not bringing your soul to work (or to your home office, the coffee shop, the grocery store, or anywhere you go to on a regular basis), you’re not doing your best work. Period. Overtime, when you don’t do your best work, your heart will show you the symptoms; stress, anxiety, heart disease, extra weight, and the list of inflammatory conditions of “unspecified origin” go on. Health insurance will not save you. Your employer will not save you. Only you can correct this ailment.

Collectively, as a society, we have created institutions and corporations that are literally ‘gutting people and communities out’ from the inside-out. And we, collectively, are seeing the collapse of these same entities and the frantic attempts to bolster them– with AI (artificial intelligence), with bail-outs, with shame, with more predatory industries, with policy and laws that withhold basic liberties and human necessities….and all for what? We all know the answer.

I was telling a colleague recently that the internal pull to go “off-grid” is a calling from our souls. It doesn’t matter if you lean conservative or liberal— anyone who has a longing for the “basics”; to protect their families, to grow their own food, and to consciously elect to disconnect from the numerous ways that corporations and corrupt institutions have infiltrated our lives, that is to go “off-grid.” Alaska or Idaho may feel safer, I get it. But what if we just brought our souls to work instead– would we have to even move?

Revising history

When I was in middle school, I had a classmate who delighted in bullying me. One day, this boy pointed his finger and in front of a handful of friends and other students, shouted “fake, fake, fake” to my face.

Having arrived in the US just a year prior to this incident, I couldn’t begin to understand the rationale or reason, nor the self-superiority or hatred, that would compel a 12-year-old boy to call a classmate “a fake.”

At the time, I was thoroughly stunned. I didn’t say anything or call him something back. I just stood there, utterly embarrassed and in disbelief. I remember coming home that afternoon, searching for my Spanish-English dictionary, and frantically looking up the meaning of the word “fake” (n) fraude, trampa, embustero. I vaguely understood what those words even meant in Spanish, let alone in English, but I knew they weren’t good.

Through that exchange I was shown that in order to be accepted by those in power, I had to ‘get in line’ and be just like them. To this day, this encounter serves as a poignant reminder of the undercurrent of intolerance and the ethnocentric arrogance that ‘white makes right’.

How could anyone call someone they barely knew something that undermines their personhood and character, and that ridicules them in front of others? What kind of person does this?

As I look back upon that exchange, I see something different; the sheer ignorance, fear, and rudeness of this young man. Viewed from the lens of emotional intelligence and wholeness, I also see that he was the actual impostor or fraud; the one who was not behaving from the integrity and fullness of his humanity, but from the wounded part of his personality and the distorted perception that it generated. In psychological terms, he was projecting his ignorance and anger on me.

The bully calling an easy target a “fake”, or worse, is a story as old as humans, yet it’s important to point out that this type of emotional abuse is not okay– not ever. Today, we know that anytime a person responds with anger or aggression, there is an important unmet need. Sadly, for many males in our society, that need is attention, affection, and love.

No one can do the inner-work for these adults and dig them out from the delusion of their one-sided, myopic lenses, or force them to see or read the other side of the dictionary, or the history of civilizations, or institutions, or of humanity itself. But perhaps, we can help.

Spiritual solidarity is a form of restorative justice. It is for the marginalized and for the aggressor, for the bully and the victim, for the sinner and the saint. Spiritual solidarity is for anyone who’s unwilling to be complicit in the misapplication of their ignorance and fear, and who wishes to ensure that the shadow aspects of our shared human story do not repeat themselves again.

Excerpted from Spiritual Solidarity, Mayra Porrata, 2021, ©SEE, LLC

The tree of life

As I stood beneath this massive tree, a beautiful download of information was received and it went something like this:

Humanity is like this tree. We all stem from the same root. We all grow and are nourished by and through this tree.

All of us start out in the lower branches– gaining mass and strength that assists the tree in becoming sturdy and viable. Smaller branches grow from the main ones and expand in new directions, gaining new perspectives and light that nourish and replenish the tree.

The branches on any side of the tree can only see what they see. However, the knowledge and insights from all other branches is readily available to them. All branches need the same air, light, water, and soil to survive. If one branch perishes, the entire tree is at risk.

Each leaf on this tree is like a human being. Some are green, some are brown, some are yellow. You are a leaf. Each person you know is a leaf. Clustered in branches, some new, some old, each leaf is part of the tree, but also individual and unique.

Although the leaves (humans) on the lower branches cannot see what the leaves on the higher branches are doing, they are enriched by the fresh light and air, nonetheless. The leaves (humans) on the higher branches are there due to the strength and nourishment from the lower branches and the tree itself.

Without new branches, new leaves, and new growth, the tree cannot remain viable or regenerate. Without light, the tree can actually perish. To fear light and growth is to fear life itself.”

Spiritual Solidarity: Chapter 3

Curiosity

In general, what are you most curious about? Think back to when you were 8 or 9 years old, too. What domains, notions, ideas, music, art, people, books, tv shows, fantasy play, hobbies, or special interests fascinated you? What questions are you afraid to ask? 

None of this is random, by the way. It is actually an important aspect of your life-purpose and even vocation. If you’ve struggled with finding your place, your niche, the thing that helps your life make sense and give it purpose and meaning, you have to be willing to “go back in time” (in your lifetime), and become very curious about those things again.

When I look back now at my fascination with that bible story from the book’s introduction (The tower of Babel), I can clearly see how my own curiosity around this, and my desire to experience how this even happened,  literally attracted, in one way or another, the physical limitations of my own life!  The ego may say: “well, that happened because you’re stupid and you deserved it.” My higher-mind/Self knows better…..now. 

All of us have stories or anecdotes like this. Some of us head full-steam into them, and some of us ignore or disregard them as silly, or wasteful of their time and energy. Fact is, however, that whether we consciously or unconsciously head in those directions, these curious places are unavoidable– they are part of your soul-work (something to learn through in this lifetime) or a soul contract (something you have agreed/volunteered to do).  

To help underscore this point, I want to share a little story from graduate-school and a class that still stands out as one of my favorites, not only because the instructor was exceptional, but because of what I learned about vocational identity and about myself. 

The class was called Career Development & Guidance and it was an introduction to the hows and whys of vocational counseling and learning how to administer a number of specific assessments to assist individuals in choosing suitable career paths. After many weeks of teaching us about the standard psychologically-based approaches, our teacher taught a module on Holland’s Personality Types and concluded with a little activity he called “vocational daydreams”. The gist of the lesson was this:

When you were 7, 8 or 9 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? Even if you wanted to be something like ‘a cowboy’, there are certain elements to that particular archetype that appeal to you; being outdoors? being a hero? a love of horses or animals? the groovy clothes?  These are questions that can’t always be easily picked up on a paper-pencil test (like a personality or psychological test) because many of these desires are from our heart and soul.

Accordingly, the punchline to our lesson on “vocational daydreams” concluded with this pronouncement by our professor; that in all the years of working in the field of vocational identity and career counseling, the most reliable predictor of someone’s ideal environment and vocation was the narrative around childhood dreams. The narrative. The story. Your story.  

Some of us have great clarity while we’re growing up– a nurse, a doctor, a mom, a builder, a baker. For individuals who fall into a number of competing aptitudes, are neurodivergent, or experienced moderately challenging life-detours and plot-twists, it’s not always so clear. That is okay. Sometimes, you can’t know until you actually know. Accordingly, all you can do is simply follow your beautiful heart as it leads you along the river of life– study what excites and delights you, hone your own critical-thinking abilities, connect your own dots along the way. Repeat. 

So, what did you want to be/do when you were 7, 8, or 9 years old? Can you remember? 

Given that regionally, nationally, and globally we’re experiencing a rapid evolution in the work we do and how we do it, this is a perfect time to sit and feel through the types of physical contribution (paid or unpaid) that make you happiest. Your time and energy are extremely valuable. This is true of all human beings. Do not fall for the trap that only “some people” are worthy or valuable, or that this process is for the “privileged”. It is a process for everyone! The greatest contribution any of us can make to the improvement of our own health and well-being, and to our communities, is to align with our inherent gifts and passions. Do not outsource this. No one can do this ‘work’ for you. Only you can.   

Chronic stress is a symptom of disharmony. Toxic stress is damaging to our physiology. When people are chronically stressed they can become disoriented, confused, and even angry and violent. They also become ill– the body is the place where we can actually ‘see’ the effects of disharmony with ourselves. We can all tell when something isn’t right for us. It feels bad, uncomfortable, and unsettling. Because we may not fully understand ‘what the heck it is‘, we often incorrectly assign the discomfort to the messenger, versus the actual source. Teacher and writer Parker J. Palmer has a beautiful quote about this shared human error of sorts: “violence is what we do when we no longer know what to do with our own suffering.” 

The flavors and symptoms of violence in our society are as unique as each individual– from negative self-talk, unaddressed fears, addictions, denial of pleasure and the ability to receive love, all the way to the wars we wage against women, individuals, communities, and nations all in the name of “x, y, or z”.

Why are you here, on Earth, right now? If you have a general sense, congratulations! Keep going! If you have no clue or feel a calling to reinvent your life, you can– there is help– the helpers are everywhere! The time has come for each of us to ask ourselves what we’re doing ‘here’, now, and to get very curious about our own inner-life, and what truly sustains and enlivens us. It is time for each of us to consider what is real versus manufactured reality. They are not the same thing. 

If you were told growing up “not to ask questions”, it could have been because the adult (or institution) did not have an answer, or because they wanted to control your thinking. God/The Ground of All Being has equipped each of us with rational minds for a reason. Dormant minds cannot think clearly or critically. Dormant minds don’t ask “why.”

So many of us, from all walks of life, are now asking “why”. To follow this innate, human curiosity and to unearth what enlivens and brings joy to your individual existence is a God-given gift available to everyone. Open your gift.

Spiritual Solidarity: Introduction

Spiritual Solidarity: Chapter 1 – Currents

Spiritual Solidarity: Chapter 2 – Context

The Flourishing Way Main website

Soul Friend: a reprise

When my daughter Serena and I first released this book in 2010, it was met with both praise and criticism. Even then, though I lacked the words to fully explain ‘where’ I/we were coming from, I understood why some people ‘got it’ and some did not.

This past week, something was illuminated for me while I was writing; the awareness that ‘understanding often precedes language’ — in other words, we often ‘know things’ we don’t yet fully (fully) understand, or have the words to explain to others.

Although I’m in no way professing that I now have all the words to explain what Serena and I were attempting to convey way back then, I am a little closer to knowing that we were indeed on the right track.

So, aside from some minor editing, we stand by these words and its deeper message. We see that even those who “seemingly appeared” to be our enemies are indeed our soul friends, too….and in time, they too will come to know this truth.

This tiny “children’s book for everyone” is freely available (below). It is still our joy to share this simple message; that we are all here (on Earth) to learn and support one another– “through the good times, the in-between times, or when you’re feeling totally blue.”

Spiritual Solidarity: Chapter 2

Context

Anytime someone sustains a trauma or personal devastation, their life context changes. It may expand or contract them and their unique perception of life, but in either case, their mentality and reality are fundamentally shifted.

Part of the alteration is due to mere survival. In order to endure a hardship of any kind, we must adapt. The other reason our perception is altered is because our current lived experience no longer matches up to the illusion of how life was ‘supposed’ to be. Mental analysis and reasoning no longer reduce our suffering. Try as we might, what we knew in our heads to be true, no longer satisfies or explains, nor does it inoculate us from life’s hardships.  

When a mother suddenly becomes a primary caregiver to a daughter with cystic fibrosis and spends 8+ years living in-and-out of a hospital, her context and life are radically altered. It’s what I call a life ‘plot-twist’. You thought you were going ‘this way’, but instead, life took you ‘that way’– which is what life does, of course.

Most commonly, when we speak about context, we’re referring to what someone ‘thinks’ about something– their cognitive and intellectual judgement relative to a person, place, or thing. This context is, more often than not, based on historic or past information, as well as the person’s level of consciousness (how open and aware they are to life itself). Our cognitive context is formed by a number of well-known social factors; our birthplace, our family of origin, our language and culture, and what our ancestors loved or feared.

This is tricky for our rational minds to fully grasp, but we see the world as we are and project this onto everything. Until you are aware of this, you are unaware of this, and you may go about your life feeling victimized by others or by life itself.

Notwithstanding the obvious trespasses, assaults, and violations of all types, from a purely psychological perspective, if you’re hurt by someone or something, you are the one experiencing this hurt or pain. There is no amount of ‘othering’, resenting, shaming, name-calling, etc. that will ever reduce or heal your pain. It is your pain. You are the one experiencing this, therefore only you can address its discomfort.

Think Jesus. Think Nelson Mandela. Think Mother Teresa. Insert your own sheroes and heroes. It is possible to understand ‘trespasses’ and therefore forgive. “As we forgive those who trespass against us” is not just a powerful line from a prayer, but a gentle directive for living a wise and meaningful life. This is how we ascend to a new level of consciousness– to a new level of experience for ourselves.

If you’ve ever played or watched someone play a video game, you get a sense of the world of possibilities that await on the other side of our ‘trusting ourselves’ and leaping into the unknown. I learned this from playing and watching my daughters play video games. There are secret tricks. There are bonus points. There are hidden access points where you can enter magical gardens and heavenly scenes. It is still the same ‘video game’ or ‘life’, but it’s a different level or dimension of experience. Once you see what is possible, you cannot un-see it.

That being said, there are no shortcuts to ‘the work’ (learning and integration) that must be done to remain there and to contend with the very real human lapses and relapses of our previous mentality. It takes time to learn and integrate new ways of being and seeing. It takes great patience on your part, too. To be kind to yourself and to others through the time-and-space that’s necessary to grow through difficulties is a practice and a dance. People may question your motives, your sanity, old friends may leave you, but all of this is hugely important, for yours and their own spiritual growth.

What someone experiences as ‘betrayal’, the other may experience as ‘freedom’ or downright relief. Shared reality is in the eye of its beholder. As has been famously pointed out, “truth has 144 sides”, so it all depends on where you are looking from.

Generally speaking, context reveals where someone is looking from. It is their psychology and worldview; their lens of experience, what they value, what they fear, the ‘villains’ or violations they endured, and who and what they love can be easily discerned and observed through their words and deeds.

Think back to my opening paragraphs in this section on context and the plot-twists that life throws at us. Even if you yourself are not a parent, or had a child with a complex condition, or have been in a hospital, you can imagine how frightening and difficult that must be. More often than not, it is precisely in these “life-valleys” that we gain the greatest awareness and vision of life. Now, think about yourself and your own life and ask yourself this:

What ‘life-valley’ did I emerge from and what did I notice, feel, sense, or see there?

Your willingness to see differently is an important intelligence. It is beyond your cognitive context. We now know that emotional intelligence has direct linkages to our physical and mental (psychological) health and well-being. I have a few simple, non-mathematical equations related to emotional intelligence:

  • the greater your emotional intelligence, the less ‘villains’ you notice in your life.
  • the greater your emotional intelligence, the greater personal peace you experience.

Human beings are a relational species. Not unlike most mammals and creatures on Earth, humans relate. We can relate because we are equipped with wiring that enables us to feel things beyond us– things we have not personally experienced. The trick, however, is to pause and actually feel by employing the power of our own senses and imagination.   

If I’m aware of someone’s cognitive context, I don’t need to have experienced their exact lives to know what heartbreak, fear, or grief feel like. That’s what enables someone to be kind. If you have a point of reference it helps us to understand other human beings better, especially those who are of a different race, faith, or culture.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, diversity was a given. When I was young, my mom would often say to me: “there are good and bad people in every race– you can only know by their heart, not their skin color.” This early lesson on race oriented me to the heart of an individual; not what was on the outside, but on the inside— and quite possibly one of the reasons why I’m writing this book today.

As a young child I often wondered ‘what’ made people kind or unkind. The reason for this is because I noticed that wealth or educational attainment had nothing to do with it. Some of the kindest and most sincere people in my early-life were actually ‘economically poor’ and ‘uneducated’ (by dominant culture standards), yet they were filled with such wisdom and richness– it was visible and palpable.

Think for a moment how your own context about yourself expands or limits your own understanding of others. While indeed our rational minds provide our default setting or basic context, there is in fact a greater and deeper context which we all belong to and share. The gateway to this context is the human heart and that is where your humanity and emotional intelligence dwell.

Spiritual Solidarity: Introduction

Spiritual Solidarity: Chapter 1 – The language that has no words

Spiritual Solidarity: Chapter 1

Currents

In everyone’s life, there are countless experiences that can revolt, confound, or mesmerize.  As such, it’s easy to get lost in the characters, stories, and the metaphors themselves. That has certainly been true for me. I call these “the currents” of our lives; the high-tides, the low-tides, the deep waters, the rip-tides, the near-drownings, and even the still waters all leave an important imprint upon us.  

Another way to describe “currents” is simply the flow of your life; where we’re taken and how we float through it all.

Before we gain full emotional awareness or maturity, it’s very difficult to understand the reason or meaning for anyone or anything ‘happening to you’. What I do know is that it is generally for “good reason” and that reason is not for my drowning, but for my soul’s journey. My mom had an expression I often heard growing up: “Dios aprieta pero no ahoga” 

When we embrace the notion that things are ‘happening for us’ instead of ‘to us’, something inside us begins to shift. Naturally, habitual judgement is suspended and replaced with a deeper curiosity and question: ‘why?’ Throughout my life, I’ve visited this place many times and each time, when I follow the ‘why’ all the way back to its root, I am humbled to my knees.

As I look back on the key events, or currents that either confounded or liberated me, I see 4 general themes or categories for understanding the relevance of people and events to my spiritual journey; 

  • Supportive (the people or experiences modeled loving-kindness)
  • Antagonistic (the people or experiences provided contrast/pain)
  • Benign (the people or experience was redirecting my path)  
  • Awakener (the people or experience was a life-changer)

So, up to this point, if my life were ‘a play’, it could be told in 4 main acts. Think about your own life for a moment; the setting/location, the characters, the plots and plot-twists, the heart-breaks, the lessons and resolutions– and the punchline; what can be humbly and lovingly distilled from the seeming anguish of it all up to this point? 

The main ‘acts’ that informed my soul’s journey can then be further broken down into a number of ‘scenes’ or time-bound and/or specific points of experience that involved people, places, or experiences. Yours may be longer or shorter, have totally different categories or descriptors, so I offer this as just one example for how you/we can conceptualize our individual life experiences:  

ACT 1 

  • My parents (supportive)
  • My early years (supportive)
  • Our relocation (antagonistic-awakener)

ACT 2

  • Colonialism, Culture, and Confusion (antagonistic-awakener)
  • My formal education  (supportive-benign)
  • My conventional career (supportive-benign)
  • My conventional marriage (antagonistic-awakener)

ACT 3

  • Becoming a mother and going back to school (benign-awakener)
  • Becoming a caregiver and embracing community (benign-awakener)
  • My daughter’s passing (antagonistic-awakener)

ACT 4

  • Embracing my vocation (supportive-awakener)
  • Living coherently (supportive-awakener)

What follows is a brief synopsis of each of the ‘scenes’ from my life and the way they helped shape me and my understanding of our shared humanity.  

My parents

My life-story begins with my parents, Mari Fernandez and Santiago Porrata, both first generation Spaniards. I believe that our parents or parental figures are our first soul teachers on Earth. Whether to provide contrast or be supportive way-showers, our family of origin sets the stage for our human adventure. 

By the time my parents became parents, they had already stepped away from both the dogmatic and cultural programming of the Church. Because of this, my sister and I were raised with a unique world-view and understanding of life. I was raised to know about the many languages of God (religions of the world) from my Dad who was an ardent student of comparative religion. From my mom, I learned that being good or bad had nothing to do with education, skin color, politics, or beliefs, but with someone’s heart. For me, my parents are and will always be two of my best friends and two incredible souls who sincerely encouraged my spiritual formation through their own lived example. 

My father’s encouragement of my intellectual and critical thinking abilities, coupled with my mother’s nurturing of my heart and spiritual life, truly conspired to help me see that I was more than just ‘one thing’. Throughout their own lives, my parents modeled for me that to be fully-human meant to embrace change, grief, imperfection, and seeming ‘failures’ as an integral and even welcomed aspect of my life and life journey.    

My early years

My early life was as close to a living paradise as one can imagine. As a young girl, most of my time was spent outdoors and fully aware of the rhythms of nature. Although I had many friends, my favorite time was time spent alone by the sea observing everything the tides brought in and out of my shore; from the countless shades of blue my beautiful ocean displayed, to the diverse creatures that co-inhabited my living playground, I was deeply attuned to the interconnectedness of life from a very early age.

Aside from nature, my extended family (my Godmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins in particular) was instrumental to my spiritual formation and oriented me to the critical importance of family/community in times of joy and especially in times of crisis.    

Our relocation  

On November 3, 1976, my family relocated from the north shores of Puerto Rico to Munroe Falls, Ohio. As a Spanish-speaking 11 year-old, being thrust into a new climate, culture, and  language was severely jarring and disorienting. My first two winters in Ohio, the winters of 1976 and 1977, provided an introduction and orientation so traumatizing, it would take me nearly 30 years to understand and integrate the wisdom imbued in these early life-lessons. 

In contrast to the first 11 years of my life, my teenage years were painful and agonizing. Not having a strong command of the English language, I turned to writing as an outlet for connection and expression. My first friends from the island wrote to me almost weekly for a period of 2 years. The hundreds of letters I received were kept in a drawer and served as a testament of enduring friendship during a time when I felt deeply alone and isolated.

Then, in the summer of 1979, my three ‘new best friends’ were involved in a car accident as they were leaving my house.  That accident would not only bond us, but the gifts and the lessons from that incident would circle back many decades later. 

Colonialism, Culture, and Confusion (my teens and early 20’s)

Although I was born an American citizen, I have never, nor do I today identify as such. However, because so much of the success of acclimating to a new culture required going along, I did just that– well, just enough of it. 

In truth, I have always been a step off, or perhaps beating to the beat of my own little drum, with my head somewhere in outer space (in full disclosure, I’m an Aquarian!), and knowing, deep within, that the way I was being taught, was not always ‘truth’, nor good, nor beautiful! Still, quite true to my Spanish upbringing, I was infinitely polite.

During my early career I was often praised and rewarded for my ideas and ‘innovative thinking and problem-solving.’ It always confounded me that others didn’t see what I saw. I would often cite my upbringing as the reason for this: “island people see things differently because we know what it’s like to be vulnerable and connected, simultaneously!”

From an early age, I knew things I couldn’t explain. There was a layer of ‘knowing’ and knowledge — information I often couldn’t fully decipher or express because I had no words for it.  Sometimes, this put me at odds with others and so to compensate for this, I would negate my own intuition and voice. This is something we all do– we relegate our own knowing and needs to the back seat of life.

Still, my soul and life itself had other plans for me and true to my inherent nature, I followed every beautiful lead. Try as we might, we cannot escape our essential nature, our true selves.      

My formal education

For many years, I struggled to figure out what I wanted to do. As early as age five, I knew I wanted to ‘teach peace’, but there was no job like that in 1983, the year I graduated high school. Also, my childhood dreams of becoming an astronaut and a nun had already been thwarted by the realities of motion sickness and my unique fashion flair. 

For me, being both creative-spiritual and technical-intellectual, felt like a hardship I didn’t want or need. I just wanted to fit neatly and easily into a simple career box. My short-term goal was to move out west to become a graphic designer and wandering gypsy. My dad insisted I should study law or medicine. Instead,  I settled for a degree in business administration with concentrations in marketing and communication.

My conventional career

Although I’ve excelled in most professional environments, I always felt like an outsider and the odd person in every job and team I’ve ever been in…and they would probably say the same about me! 

From 1986 to 1998, I worked in retail operations and in banking, and then with a Fortune 50 company as a corporate trainer and project manager in operations, education, communications, and marketing. By age 30, I had worked in a number of high profile, multi-million dollar projects. I was earning a great salary and being groomed to become a future leader of this “great American company.” The only problem, however, was that I was terribly unfulfilled and unhappy.    

My conventional marriage

I met the father of my girls in January of 1995. We were married from 1996 to 2011. The marriage was difficult and painful. Its ending even more so. 

Through this relationship and the contrast it provided, I came to fully understand the true meaning of marriage and partnership. The most profound piece (and peace) for me was that I became a mother during this time.

Becoming a mother and going back to school

I left my corporate job when I was 4 months pregnant with my first daughter, Serena, and began graduate studies in community counseling that same year (1998). I was 33 years old. My second daughter (Camille) was born in 2002. Leaving a promising corporate career and going back to school was one of those things that made no sense to others, but I was honoring my Inner-guidance and a calling so deep within me, that I had no other choice. It felt as if my life depended on it.   

By far, becoming a mother is the single-most important and sacred thing I have ever or will ever do in this life. I could write an entire book on motherhood because it bears our attention and re-attunement as a society.  Homemaking, a term I once arrogantly and violently opposed because societal programming was pulling me otherwise, became my own life-saving practice and grace.

In the spring of 2006, in my second to last semester of graduate school, my daughter Serena was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. She was 7 years-old. Although it had not been detected at birth due to newborn screening not being in effect in the state of Ohio at the time, she carried two of the most common and lethal mutations for this condition. In that moment, our family was given a ‘life-shortening’ diagnosis and sentence of sorts– one that would alter our course and change all our lives.

Being a single-mother and caregiver

By 2015, I was the custodial guardian of the girls. As my daughter Serena’s condition required, our lives consisted of frequent and prolonged hospital stays at Akron Children’s Hospital. From 2011 until 2018, the girls and I were ‘frequent flyers’, always with our hospital suitcases ready to go any time. 

During the 8 years that I was a single-mother and caregiver, and especially during the last 3 years of Serena’s life, I came to realize the importance and life-saving grace of community. Without community, we can easily wither. There are literally hundreds of people who intimately touched our lives all those years. I am humbled to my knees every time I think of all that was given to us— transportation, counsel, comfort, house-sitting, care, food — love in all its beautiful forms arrived with such regularity, I was transformed in the process — like gentle waves carving out hardened rock, I was literally reshaped by the loving-kindness of those who took care of us, our home, and pets. 

All those years spent in the hospital informed me in profound ways, too. I learned a great deal about chronic illness, the health insurance industry, our medical system and medicine in general as it is practiced today. Finally, becoming a single-mother and full-time caregiver illuminated the economic hardships that are so common for the nearly 40 million caregivers and many others in our country, too.  

My daughter’s passing

My daughter Serena passed away from complications of cystic fibrosis in 2018. She was 19 years-old. The particular flavor of grief experienced by parents who lose a child is unlike any other. It is all-engulfing, vast, and deep. My story with her is its own beautiful life-book; one not solely expressed in words, but in deeds. Suffice to say, Serena is and will always be one of my greatest teachers in this life.      

Embracing my vocation

Regardless of the setting or domain, fundamentally, I’ve always been a noticer and a writer. Although my writing can be clunky or clumsy, it is through my willingness to honor this calling, that the quality of my own writing and life has improved.

Although it’s not always obvious, if we take the time to gently look back, we can often see the connecting thread that runs through and weaves the tapestry of our lives and therefore, our vocational biography.  

It is my deepest sense that encouraging others to look through their lives with their own ‘magnifying glass of awareness’, can lessen their confusion and suffering. That is the basic reason for this book. Spiritual solidarity is not a belief, but the awareness and appreciation that until we look inside, we will continue to build and co-create the proverbial Tower of Babel.  

Living coherently

Living coherently is a practice– it is play! It is not about achievement, perfection, or what anyone deems as ‘success’. Only you can define success for yourself; only you, your soul, knows what that is.  

For me, this current work is an applied extension of this understanding and aligns with my own desire to grow and regenerate. Regeneration is not about more degrees, or books, or skills for success. Regeneration is an inside job.

As more of us choose to live from the ‘inside-out’, we naturally become kinder and patient. Because we are in-tune and in harmony with ourselves, our judgements and ‘othering’ naturally seizes. We’re no longer interested in debating ideas or being right. As we continue to mature, we naturally long to be with others who match our own harmony and frequency. Our daily-bread is given to us as we give, create, and co-create. Our work is an extension of our hearts.

Each of us comes to Earth with a purpose and even subtly, part of you already knows what that is. How can you really know what yours is? My gentle suggestion to anyone is that you tune into that which has been prescribed for you, not by cultural programming, but inscribed in your heart and Higher-mind, and revealed through the awareness of what you most cherish and love. Follow that. That is your calling. That is your soul calling you.

Spiritual Solidarity: Chapter 2 – Context